Can Cats Eat Raw Chicken? Is It Dangerous?

A hand can be seen holding a piece of raw chicken and feeding it to a grey and white cat who is biting on it.

With the raw diet rage comes the question, can cats eat raw chicken? The short answer is yes; the long answer is more complicated. If you’re thinking of making “raw the law” for your cats, please read on.

Is Eating Chicken Good For Cats?

Cats are obligate carnivores, which means that they crave protein and need it to make up a large part of their diet. Protein from animal sources is complete, meaning that it contains all of the essential amino acids that a cat needs. On the other hand, plant-based proteins are incomplete and need to be paired correctly with other protein sources to provide those same amino acids.

With that in mind, chicken is an excellent protein source for cats. Not only does it provide all of the essential amino acids, but it is also low in fat compared to beef or pork. You may notice that many cat food brands use chicken as their primary protein source because of this. 

Is Raw Chicken Safe for Cats?

The many nutritional benefits of chicken have led some pet parents to believe that raw chicken is equally valued as cat food or as a treat. Raw chicken still provides the same nutritious goodness, but without the processing; therefore, raw chicken must be better, right? 

Maybe not. 

The main focus of a raw diet is on providing cats with superior nutrition through fresh, whole, non-processed foods. It does seem like a great idea. However, raw foods may also contain harmful bacteria, such as SalmonellaCampylobacterandClostridium perfringensThe process of cooking chicken kills these pathogens, making them safer to consume.

Not only are these bacteria potentially harmful to your kitty, but they also pose a risk to the person who handles the bacteria-laden food.  So avoid giving raw chicken to your cats.

Can Cats Eat Chicken Bones?

In the wild and raw feeding, bones are often a component of a cat’s diet. After all, they are packed with healthy minerals like calcium and phosphorus. 

Bone marrow is also very nutritious and can support joint and skin health and decrease inflammation. But does that mean that you should let your feline friend chomp down on a few chicken bones?

The bones of birds are hollow. They need to be to decrease body weight to support flight. That hollowness and lightweight structure also make them more prone to splintering when crunched. Chicken bones, especially the larger ones, pose a risk of gastrointestinal punctures and choke if fed to your cat.

Smaller bones may be safer from the splintering standpoint, but they still come with plenty of risk of causing your cat to choke. So, while feeding your cat chicken bones may make them feel like they’re a lion out on the savannah, they can actually be quite dangerous.

Can Cats Eat Cooked Chicken?

If you’ve decided to take raw chicken off of your cat’s menu, you don’t have to remove chicken as an ingredient altogether. There are ways you can cook chicken to make a safe and nutritious snack for your kitty.

When cooking chicken for your cat, keep it simple. Plain boiled chicken is best. The boiling process removes harmful bacteria while still providing your cat with a flavor that they will love. Don’t add any seasoning, as things like garlic and onion can be dangerous for your cat to consume. 

Remove the skin. Your cat doesn’t need the extra fat, and fatty foods can lead to a potentially serious condition called pancreatitis. Avoid cooking chicken in fats or oils as well.  

What about other preparations for chicken?

Types of Cooked Chicken to Avoid

  1. Fried Chicken:  It’s best not to share this Southern dish with your kitty. Frying chicken in fats and oils increases the risk for complications like pancreatitis. Also, the seasoning that we love so much can be detrimental to your cat.
  2. Smoked Chicken: Smoked chicken offers a very pleasant alternate flavor that most of us love; however, it also adds high amounts of salt and nitrates to the meat, which can be detrimental for your cat.
  3. Canned Chicken: The canning process usually requires the addition of salt, which at high amounts can be detrimental to your cat. If you can find low sodium versions of canned chicken, feel free to share small amounts with your feline friend.

Acceptable Types of Cooked Chicken to Feed Your Cat

  1. Baked Chicken: Chicken that has been baked plain without the use of seasonings or other flavorings is safe for your cat. Make sure to remove the skin and don’t douse it in oil or butter.
  2. Grilled Chicken: Grilling is another way to serve up some chicken to your kitty. Again, avoid seasonings, skin, and oils when preparing it.

Final Thoughts

Most of us think of our cats as members of our family, and we want to “treat” them as such. A common way that we show how much we love is by sharing our food with them. If the food you choose to share is chicken, take precautions to ensure that it poses the least amount of risk possible. 

That means cooking it to remove harmful pathogens and serving it without additional seasoning, flavorings, and bones. Also, use chicken as a treat rather than an entire meal. Your cat needs a complete and balanced diet to be healthy, and chicken can’t provide all of the nutrients that they require. 

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